Potential cancer treatment uses microwaves to target tumors

By Ryan Maass  |  Oct. 11, 2016 at 4:29 PM
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ARLINGTON, Texas, Oct. 11 (UPI) -- Researchers at the University of Texas at Arlington demonstrated that microwaves can be used to target tumors directly during cancer treatment.

In the study, published in the Journal of Biomedical Nanotechnology, authors suggest the photosensitive nanoparticles activated by microwaves can lead to the death of cells within solid tumors. Researchers observed microwaves influenced significant cell damage in both in vitro and in vivo studies on an osteosarcoma cell line.

"Our new method using microwaves can propagate through all types of tissues and target deeply situated tumors," lead author Wei Chen said in a press release.

The method outlined in the study blends microwave treatment with photodynamic therapy, which kills cancer cells by exposing them to a nanoparticle that generates toxic singlet oxygen.

"Up to now, photodynamic therapy, which depends on visible, ultraviolet or near infrared light, was considered effective for skin cancers or cancers close to the skin surface," Chen explained. "Our new concept combining microwaves with photodynamic therapy opens up new avenues for targeting deeper tumors and has already proven effective in rapidly and safely reducing tumor size."

The research builds upon previous studies that contended the nanoparticle copper-cysteamine could be used to activate X-rays to slow the growth of tumors. Unlike X-rays, however, microwaves can focus directly on solid tumors without harming surrounding tissue.

"Dr. Chen's research into nanoparticle activation has led to important discoveries that could potentially transform cancer treatment," UTA's Physics Department chair Alex Weiss said. "This new paper on the possibilities of microwave activation demonstrates yet again how Dr. Chen's search for new modalities of therapy could play a key role in finding safe, viable and inexpensive treatments for cancer."

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